In the past year I have been attempting to focus more on the local music scene, with mixed results. The more credible (for lack of a better term) acts seem to have crawls back to the basement, tucked away in token slots on television, or working their asses off in niche venues to the converted – an inevitable reaction to the pop mainstream regaining control. This skews things a bit, at least to me: there’s this subliminal need to see boundaries being pushed, whether lyrically or aurally. It’s a bit of a pressure, frankly, so Rico Blanco’s new record feels comfortable. Dating Gawi is short at eight tracks, but it shows the former Rivermaya frontman at his best: preppy, springy pop-rock with his observational lyrics, sometimes poetic, always relatable. This is the sort of thing that gets lost in the post as we look for “credible” and “authentic”, at a time when we have the urge to be different, to be distinct, from the droning masses. There is a middle way, and it doesn’t have to be confused and muddled (sorry, Callalily). Rico did not have to shake things up, and he didn’t; the result is an album that, while short, is a much needed shot of perspective. [NB] | 4/5
To mark 150 years since the birth of Andres Bonifacio, Rock Ed Philippines released Rock Supremo, eleven tracks (and, later, a “rock ballet” with Ballet Philippines) loosely riffing on the life of the revolutionary leader. Not having seen the show – I heard of this and it was too late – I’ll have to stick with the songs, which are decidedly random (well, loose) and reflect on the collaborating artists’ styles and approaches – as well as that tendency for Filipinos to boil everything down to romantic love – rather than being a cohesive work, which, from where I stand, it a bit disappointing. But no matter: it’s always nice to hear Ebe Dancel do his sweeping ballads (“Lakambini”), Pedicab’s gone surprisingly, defyingly melodic (“Ang Dakilang Duwag ng Katipunan”) and Radioactive Sago Project is acerbic as always, even in death (“Hoy Emilio”). Too bad Rico Blanco can’t be arsed to do something new, deciding instead to contribute an old single, “Yugto”. Or am I just not that familiar with the rest? [NB] | 3/5
“Your Universe” by Rico Blanco | Is this song the cheesiest OPM song ever? Claud
certainly thinks so thinks he might’ve. I don’t. “The core is,” she said. “What it wants to say is cheesy. Pero the way it was written, hindi.” Well, in that case, yes. Any song that says “I’m so happy to be in your arms” will always sound cheesy. But Rico’s often deliberately stayed away from sounding cheesy, leaving it to other local artists who will. (For some reason, Cueshé comes to mind.) So who wins? I don’t know. It’s still a good song, though.